By Geoffrey Paul
February 12, 2009
Not the best of times in interfaith relations. Muslims in Britain, I am told by one of them, are filled with anger over what transpired in Gaza and, he predicted, pictures from that conflict will be used by extremists to recruit amongst Muslim youth in Britain. Then there was the Pope, compounding a couple of misplaced steps in interfaith relations, by opening the way back into the Church for a rebel bishop who doesn't believe the Holocaust really happened.
Yesterday, adding to this sour stew, the Synod of the Church of England, having adopted a paper which, in theological terms, depicts Christianity as the recipient of the blessings God promised to the Jews but did not deliver, called on the bishops to come up with “examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.”
This must have brought a wry smile to the face of the Chief Rabbi, a joint president with the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Council of Christians and Jews. Sir Jonathan, you will recall, had to respond to charges of heresy from within the Jewish community for writing that "God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims." He added: "No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilisation encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind ... In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths ... God is greater than religion. He is only partially comprehended by any faith."
Not in the view of the Synod, however. The paper it endorsed, written by the “Theological Consultant to the House of Bishops” declared without qualification that Anglicans accept as the basis for interfaith dialogue “that Jesus is the source of salvation for all people everywhere (whether they are yet aware of the fact or not), but also holding that Christians are called to be God's instruments in bringing people to explicit faith in Christ and to membership of his Church.”
After all these arduous years of conversation, publication and dedication, it seems we have only reached the foothills of interfaith dialogue with a long, hard road ahead....if you have the energy.